Kilimanjaro: Female Porterage

We’re proud to have set up and continue to support our own Porter school in Arusha, providing essential training for those wishing to work as porters on Kilimanjaro and to progress to more senior roles. Unusually for Tanzania, the school accepts both men and women, with female porterage and guiding forming a vital component on our treks.

Kilimanjaro Kilimanjaro

“These women work alongside their male counterparts, doing the same work and earning the same money. It offers them a real independence,” says Responsible Tourism Manager, Megan Devenish. “It’s a wonderful opportunity for women in a traditional patriarchal society to earn a living."

“Exodus has both female assistant guides and porters regularly working on the mountain, providing them with a good salary for their families. The money often goes towards their children's education.” Megan says.

 

Porters on Kilimanjaro Porters on Kilimanjaro

Our Marketing Director, Jae Hopkins experienced first-hand the energy and enthusiasm these women bring to our expeditions. For her group of seven trekkers, 34 local staff were there helping them up the mountain, including guides, assistant guides and porters. Six of the porters on her trek were female. “I was pleased to see that the women porters were completely accepted by the rest of the support team.” she says. “Each evening at camp the atmosphere felt wonderfully convivial; even though the porters spoke little English, and I speak even less Swahili, we played keepy-uppy or catch, we danced, and we laughed together.”

“My porter was a woman called Pudensia,” Jae says. “She was quick and generous with her smiles, and always came to the entrance of each campsite to meet me – taking my day sack from my shoulders.”

Pudensia Pudensia, one of our porters on Kilimanjaro

Climbing back down from the summit, feeling weary and ‘jelly-legged’, Jae spotted Pudensia coming back up to meet her: “She strode up, a huge grin on her face, giving a double thumbs-up. She quickly whipped my day sack from my shoulders, and started walking down the scree with us. Then she stopped, turned to my male guide, Hance, and put her hand out for his bag too!”

Asking Hance what the men in the support team thought about working with women porters, Jae got an immediate response: “Why shouldn’t they? I see these women climbing the mountain every day,” he shrugged.

Students at the Kilimanjaro Porter School Students at the Kilimanjaro Porter School

This isn't anything new for Exodus. We've been employing female staff on the mountain for well over a decade. Product Director Jim Eite used to be a guide on Kilimanjaro himself before swapping his hiking boots for working at our London HQ, and has summitted so many times he himself has lost count. He remembers that when he was leading regularly you would see female porters on the mountain, but they were "rare". But that's changing now.

"It’s amazing to see the progress that has made over the years that we have been running the porter school – the standard of English and understanding of the tourism industry - especially customer service - has improved tremendously. It's enabled many to progress quickly through to cook and guide positions. However, one of the most pleasing aspects is the number of women joining the school – all roles on Kili were once solely filled by males, but the addition of females to the teams on the mountain has made a huge difference. Female porters like Pudensia bring a different energy and outlook to the team, and in a short space of time seeing female porters on the mountain has become the norm. We now want to work to ensure that the same opportunities filter through so that seeing female head guides is also the norm on Africa’s highest mountain."

kilimanjaro sunrise Sunrise on Kilimanjaro

It may be all in a day’s work, but it's a life changing occupation.

We're thrilled to announce that for 2017 we'll be sponsoring Neema Moses to attend a Guiding Qualification course during the long rains. The Kilimanjaro Guide Scholarship Foundation helps porters learn English and the various skills they need to progress their careers from porters to guides. Neema has been working as a porter for one year and has climbed Mount Meru nearly 70 times. She will be the first lady we've sponsored on this course and we're thrilled to be able to help her reach her goals.

Whilst many of Exodus' Kilimanjaro climbs employ female porters, if you're keen to guarantee you'll meet them on the trail then keep an eye out for our Female Crew Departures on Kilimanjaro, where we have scheduled as many female staff on the mountain crew as possible.

Kilimanjaro Climb - Lemosho Route

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